Which Teams Have Had the Most (and Least) Success in the First Round of the MLB Draft?
On Monday, 30 Major League teams will take part in the annual restocking of the farm system known as the MLB Draft.
For teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, it's an opportunity to continue their rebuilding efforts. For the teams with playoff potential, it's a chance to solidify an already-strong Major League roster for the future.
Of course, the MLB Draft is very different from the NBA and NFL drafts. Virtually no one selected this year will be expected to make a contribution at the Major League level for three to five years. In baseball, it takes a long time for high schoolers and college kids to learn the game and get enough experience to make a difference for the teams that drafted them.
The players who are most likely to make a contribution sooner rather than later are the players drafted in the first round. And even in a draft that doesn't appear to have a sure-fire superstar, those picking early should be able to land a player that can help them.
Some teams have had a lot of success drafting in the first round. Some have not. Here's a list of how every team has fared in the first round over the last 10 years (information courtesy of Baseball Reference).
Here are how the five best teams have fared since 2005.
Washington Nationals (71.9 rWAR)
OK, let's not kid ourselves -- the Nationals have been very fortunate with their first-round picks the last few years. Two years in a row, with the number-one overall pick, they selected two no-brainers in Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. And while Strasburg has been up-and-down a bit, Harper has emerged as a superstar, and both made major contributions to the big club in a big way very early on. They also nailed the Ryan Zimmerman selection in 2005, and Anthony Rendon has emerged as one of baseball's best young stars. Their rWAR of 71.9 in just 15 picks is by far the best of any club in baseball.
Arizona Diamondbacks (67.8 rWAR)
What's scary is that their 67.8 rWAR from first-round picks doesn't even count Paul Goldschmidt's career 19.0 rWAR, because he was drafted in the eighth round of 2009. Among the first-rounders taken by Arizona over the last 10 years is Justin Upton (now a Padre), Max Scherzer (now a National) and A.J. Pollock, their current center fielder. Frankly, the D-Backs have dealt away a lot of their promising youth, including Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer. They should be better than they are, but I guess that's why there's been so much upheaval in recent years in the Arizona front office.
San Francisco Giants (62.8 rWAR)
The Giants have done very well in the first round over the last decade, with their signature draftee being their best player, catcher Buster Posey. World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner and former Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum also helped win the Giants three world championships, and all were drafted in the first round.
Tampa Bay Rays (62.7 rWAR)
The Rays have gotten 62.7 rWAR from their first-round picks over the last 10 years, but it's a bit deceiving. They have had just four players make the Majors out of 22 first round (and supplemental) picks over the last 10 years. Fortunately for them, two of those were Evan Longoria and David Price, two guys who helped get them to the 2008 World Series. But they have struggled to turn some of these early picks into Major Leaguers in recent years.
Cincinnati Reds (59.9 rWAR)
The Reds have the fifth-most rWAR from their first-round picks over the last 10 years, including Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier. Frazier has become one of the most prominent sluggers in the National League, and while Bruce has had his struggles, he's still young and can hit for some power as well. Not a lot of superstars, but nine Major Leaguers out of 17 picks isn't bad.
Now, for the underachievers.
Philadelphia Phillies (-0.6 rWAR)
If you want to know why the Phillies are so bad right now, the biggest culprit is not the Ryan Howard contract, the Jonathan Papelbon contract, or even either of the two Hunter Pence trades that didn't pan out. Philadelphia is where they are because of 10 years of horrific drafting. Nowhere is that more evident than in their 12 first-round selections, which netted them just four Major Leaguers, none of whom posted a positive rWAR. Collectively, their rWAR is -0.6, the only team to have a negative WAR among first round picks since 2005. However, there is a ray of hope. Their last two first rounders, J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola, are both on the fast track to the Majors and could be the team's best player and ace, respectively, very soon.
San Diego Padres (3.9 rWAR)
The Padres have had 26 first round and supplemental picks over the last 10 years, and nine of them have turned into Major Leaguers. But with just 3.9 rWAR between those nine players, none has become a star. Their best player, at 4.2 rWAR, was 2008 pick Logan Forsythe. That is not a good track record.
Cleveland Indians (5.4 rWAR)
The Indians don't have a lot to show for their first-rounders yet, with a meager 5.4 rWAR from their 12 picks and five Major Leaguers, with most of that coming from Lonnie Chisenhall's 4.8 rWAR. However, their 2011 first round pick, shortstop Francisco Lindor, is a consensus Top-10 prospect in baseball right now, so it's likely their WAR total will go up over the next few years.
Houston Astros (9.9 rWAR)
A lot of what the Astros have in their system has come from other systems (including the Phillies), and a few of their most recent draft picks are looking like potentially productive Major League players, such as shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder George Springer and starting pitcher Lance McCullers. They also have a big-time prospect in starting pitcher Mark Appel, but he has struggled during his brief minor league career. What really hurts is how the Astros threw away the top overall pick last year, Brady Aiken, when they failed to sign him to a contract. Aiken later underwent Tommy John surgery, but selecting him was a waste of the top overall pick in the draft.
Miami Marlins (13.4 rWAR)
This is a bit deceiving, as the Marlins selected Giancarlo Stanton in the second round of the 2007 draft, so a couple first round misses are no big deal. Stanton makes up for a lot of errors. And while they've gotten only 13.4 rWAR from their first rounders over the last decade, two of them, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich, are already two of the brightest young stars in the game, so they won't be on this list for very long.
A chance to continue their recent success or correct their past mistakes, begins on Monday night.